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Biden says nation needs more than a good soldier

world Updated: Aug 28, 2008 10:54 IST

AP
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Joe Biden accepted the Democratic vice presidential nomination on Wednesday night and declared that the challenges America faces require "more than a good soldier" in the White House, hailing Barack Obama as a wise leader who can deliver the change the nation needs.

In a single sentence, Obama's new running mate complimented Republican presidnetial candidate John McCain's years of military service and bashed his claim on the White House.

As Biden concluded his speech accepting the nomination, Obama stepped on stage and embraced his man to a convention roar. "I want everybody to now understand why I am so proud to have Joe Biden ... and the whole Biden family," Obama told the boisterous crowd. "I think he's presented himself pretty well so far, what do you think?" More cheers.

In his speech, Biden also sniped at Vice President Dick Cheney, saying that after he takes over the job, for Americans trying to do the right thing and honor the Constitution, "no longer will the eight most dreaded words in the English language be 'The vice president's office is on the phone."'

Biden said the bedrock American promise of a better tomorrow is in jeopardy "but John McCain doesn't get it."

"I know it, you know it Barack Obama gets it," he said. "This is the time as Americans, together, we get back up," he said. " These are extraordinary times. This is an extraordinary election. The American people are ready. Barack Obama is ready. This is his time. This is our time. This is America's time." Hours after the Democratic National Convention nominated Obama by acclamation, Biden was unanimously chosen to be his running mate. He called McCain a Senate friend of three decades, but the wrong man for the White House. "I profoundly disagree with the direction that John wants to take the country," he said.

At one point, misspeaking, he started a sentence by referring to George as in President George W. Bush and then corrected himself to say John as in McCain. A Freudian slip, he quipped. It is a connection Democrats are bent on making at every opportunity. Biden went hard against McCain and the Republicans on foreign policy. "I've been on the ground in Georgia, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms: This administration's policy has been an abject failure." Biden said McCain wants to keep it going on the same course. "America cannot afford four more years of this," Biden said. "Again and again, on the most important national security issues of our time, John McCain was wrong and Barack Obama was proven right."

The 65-year-old Delaware senator told the convention he'd learned a lot about Obama by campaigning against him for the party's presidential nomination. Biden was an early dropout in that campaign, quitting after he managed only 1 percent of the vote in Iowa's opening caucuses.

Biden said that in debating Obama, watching him react under pressure, he learned about the strength of the Democratic presidential candidate's mind and his ability to touch and inspire people.

"And I realized he has tapped into the oldest American belief of all: We don't have to accept a situation we cannot bear. We have the power to change it," Biden said in excerpts of his prepared remarks.

Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that "our country is less secure and more isolated than at any time in recent history."

"The Bush-McCain foreign policy has dug us into a very deep hole with very few friends to help us climb out," Biden said. On a timelined withdrawal from the war in Iraq, which McCain rejects, he was wrong and Obama was right, Biden said. "After six long years, the Bush administration and the Iraqi government are on the verge of setting a date to bring our troops home," he said.

That issue must have special impact for Biden. He was presented to the convention by his son, Beau Biden, the Delaware attorney general, who said "other duties" would keep him from his father's side during the campaign. He did not mention that the other duty was to report for service in Iraq as a member of the Delaware National Guard.

So the younger Biden asked Democrats to be there for his father in the campaign. "Be there because Barack Obama and Joe Biden will deliver America the change we so desperately need," Beau Biden said.

In response, the McCain campaign said, "Joe Biden is right: We need more than a good soldier, we need a leader with the experience and judgment to serve as commander in chief from Day One. That leader is John McCain."

Former President Bill Clinton hailed Biden's nomination for vice president as he pledged his campaign backing to Obama in a convention speech. He said Obama "hit it out of the park" with the vice presidential selection he disclosed early on Saturday. "With Joe Biden's experience and wisdom supporting Barack Obama's proven understanding, insight and good instincts, America will have the national security leadership we need," Clinton said. McCain has not said who is vice presidential pick is, but an announcement on Friday is possible.